Innovative, interdisciplinary R&D projects produce large amounts of research information. Depending on the nature of the project, its scope, and research objectives, the information used or created during the project lifecycle may include personal data. It is thus important to focus on the Data Management Plan from an ethics perspective – that is – as a privacy and data protection requirement that details how personal data is processed for research purposes.
To satisfy legislative and ethics requirements, innovative research projects must be realized in accordance with national, and international laws and the specific sources of regulation applicable to the project including the rules concerning data processing. Research initiatives funded under different programs by the EU must be compliant with specific legal and ethical requirements concerning data processing that may impose the need for the development of a project Data Management Plan (DMP).
All project partners should align their data processing activities with the DMP. Relevant guidelines about the DMP specify the structure of the plan and content – what data a project will generate, what data will be publicly available, what data should stay confidential, whether and how it will be exploited or made accessible for verification and re-use, and how it will be curated and preserved. The focus is on encouraging sound data management as an essential part of research best practices.
The DMP has a significant role in the compliant realization of project activities and deployment of the results. Also, there are many other benefits of good data management, i.e., it ensures that research data are of high quality, well organized, documented, preserved, accessible and valid. Well-managed data is easily shared and can thus be used for new research or to duplicate and validate existing research.
The DMP is a living document, and it is expected to be developed during the whole lifecycle of the project development. Researchers should consider data processing perspectives from the very beginning of the research cycle. This requirement exactly creates the need for and explains the purpose of the DMP.
The Data Management Plan provides principles and rules on how all these steps should be conducted properly in order to satisfy data processing and protection requirements. Thus, it provides insights into what data will be generated, how it will be exploited, and how it will be made accessible, reusable, curated, and preserved during and after the realization of this project. Also, it provides a strategy and relevant tactics for managing data. Therefore, the DMP is a source of formal self-regulation that outlines how data will be handled during the course of the research project and after the project completion. For all these reasons, any innovative research project is guided by DMP steps in its data management process.
The DMP has transversal nature and concerns the processing of data and personal data in all work packages and across all project research activities. It sets up concrete measures that should enable appropriate processing and protection of data. Therefore, the application of the DMP should prevail in all project activities that include data processing. It would not be wrong to claim that the DMP grounds ethical standards relevant to all research activities as well as accompanying activities included in a project.
The Data Management Plan is the means of proving that the project consortium is aware of the potential ethical implications of the project and confirms its commitment to respect the ethical standards and rules. Thus, the ethical standards and guidelines of EU-funded research including those that regulate data processing/protection must be rigorously applied, regardless of the country in which the research takes place.